County battling billionaire over beach access

KILAUEA — Questions about responsible upkeep and safety were voiced at the Kilauea Neighborhood Association meeting Tuesday night, as county attorneys explained current legal action to reopen a public access to Kauapea Beach.

Kauai County attorneys Mauna Kea Trask and Adam Roversi updated about 60 attendees at a KNA meeting on the recent suit filed against landowner KAPHA North Shore LLC.

“I’m not against it, but how do we police it?” asked Jackie Yellin, Kilauea resident.

She pointed out the county has an already full plate of responsibilities and she’s not convinced staff members will be able to upkeep policing and maintaining the access.

“If the county can’t be responsible to even take care of the roads, how do I buy what you’re selling?” Yellin asked.

Safety at Kauapea Beach, also known as Secret Beach, was a concern voiced by Yellin and several others.

“It’s one of the more dangerous beaches on the island. Will we have lifeguards?” she said. “We get drownings every year.”

Not all of the island’s beaches have lifeguard stations, only county beach parks, Trask explained, and there are no plans to turn the access into a county beach park.

As far as upkeep, Trask said Kilauea Neighborhood Association is poised to enter into a stewardship agreement with the county to work together on maintenance of the trail.

The community also has concerns about traffic on Kauapea Road, near Lighthouse Road, which leads to the quarter-mile trail that follows a natural gully down to the beach.

The top of the trail is flat with a gradual decline into the valley until it curves and traverses along the bluff before another gradual decline to Pa‘aha‘o Beach, also known as Third Beach.

Pa‘aha‘o Beach was previously used by the community for fishing, gathering and other recreational purposes and has been since at least the 1890s, according to the filed complaint.

Public access was a condition of a 1977 Special Use Permit, but paperwork was filed wrongly in the 70s and that guarantee of public access was lost in the shuffle.

Attorneys and other audience members stressed the purpose of the meeting was to introduce the case to the community.

“These are all concerns the county has considered,” Roversi said. “At the moment, our focus is to establish legal right and after that, there is much to negotiate.”

Kilauea resident Lorraine Newman focused her comments on step one of the project.

“I think what is at issue here is the legal access to what we believe is our right,” Newman said. “Do we not go there and take over (the public access trail) because of the secondary issues?”

She continued: “It’s an old and potent issue. Access is sacred.”

KAPHA North Shore LLC bought the property in November 2011 from Blazer Enterprises, Inc., a Hawaii corporation now dissolved.

The company is owned or controlled by a trust connected to Russian heiress Ekaterina Rybolovleva, daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.

The prior owner blocked the public in the mid-1990s from using the trail, according to the county.

“This has been a concern to the community long before now,” Trask said. “Now, (we have) a perfect storm of county attorneys who are willing to dedicate staff and a mayor (who is) willing.”

He continued: “We’ll take this to court and win or lose, it’ll be resolved.”

A schedule for litigation hasn’t yet been set, but attorneys said these types of cases can take a year or longer to unfold.

“This is going to be a heavy duty case,” Trask said.

  1. My Two Cents March 8, 2018 6:40 am Reply

    People like this think because they have money everything is theirs. They can’t help it thats how thier brain works.. So let me make it clear so he understands.. YOUR NOT WANTED HERE!!!
    You cant put all the blame on him though people selling of the to outsiders should accountable too..

  2. My Two Cents March 8, 2018 6:49 am Reply

    People selling off the land to outsiders without thinking first should be held accountable too.. Native could have done way more with the land then this guy , whos probly NOT even there.. And just useing the land as some rainy day fund he can just flip for profit.

  3. manawai March 8, 2018 7:20 am Reply

    This sounds like a lesson in be careful what you wish for…or in this case demand. The goal is access which is great. But then along with access comes people and cars. Lots of people and lots of cars….traffic, litter, theft, injuries, etc. Yup! Public access has it’s downside and many folks are blind to the ramifications. They only see the first goal and none of the consequences that inevitably come along with it.

  4. kapaaa March 8, 2018 10:24 am Reply

    we would have had it all this time and without a costly lawsuit, but, county attorney at the time, Max Graham was reluctant to pursue the access because of liability issues. the US Coast Guard has an easement and waterline from the county there. the first caretaker cottage on the Russian property was recently converted to a guard station. the small access from the roadway is full of green waste and thorn bushes from the neighbors (between Benjy’s and the highest priced home listed on Kauai), just like at the Papaa Bay access (at which the county lost its access lawsuit!). seems we just need to cut trail with machetes.

  5. harry oyama March 8, 2018 11:00 am Reply

    First of all, how did the Russians get hold of these land? And since Putin talks about Native People being ripped off by Americans, he should put his comments into action, by letting only Hawaiians get access to this beach, not everyone.

  6. Steve Martin March 8, 2018 1:07 pm Reply

    Trask say’s ” this is going to be a heavy duty case”. For the amount of people directly involved you should be the ones spending the millions on this suit not the county. My taxes and others who don’t need access should not be spent because of the billionaire that’s blocking your access. Because of the lengthy case and the fact that the property owner in question would consider the millions to be spent as “chump change” the county should back out and let those who want it so bad pay the price to try and get it. Reading this story it seems like the county lawyers don’t see this as a slam dunk for the users and as a result it will be resolved, but not necessarily by the county.

  7. MisterM March 8, 2018 1:58 pm Reply

    Russians got it just like most wealthy families get it – crime/graft.

    “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime” Balzac

  8. Imua44 March 8, 2018 4:51 pm Reply

    Look at the land title history.
    Surprising names pop up. The Russian didn’t cut off access. Two of kauai’s leading citizen land grabbers did. Easy to check. 2002 planning commission. 2 well known sellers cut it off. They are still here doing big land deals. The biggest land deals….

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